Writing in plannerEmployers are looking for employees that are efficient and effective members of their team. They want people who have good time management skills that can make the most of their work day. In this blog we break down this important soft skill, what it means to have good time management and how to improve with some practice.

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Developing Strong Time Management

Sep 29, 2021

Writing in plannerHave you ever looked at a posting for an open job position and seen the following phrases: "self-starter," "fast-paced environment," "deadline-driven," or "ability to work independently?"  What these and similar phrases are asking is: how good are you at managing your time?

We've written about the importance of soft skills before, explaining that people skills like communication or working on a team are just as valuable to a future employer as technical training. With a few exceptions, jobs cannot be worked entirely alone. You'll need to be able to interact with coworkers or customers one-on-one or in a team setting. Other soft skills like a positive attitude and organizational skills reflect your strengths as an individual employee.

In this blog we're going to look at the importance of time management, and ways to support a more efficient workday. 

What is Time Management?

Time management is actually a set of smaller skills that help make you an efficient and effective employee. Because there are only so many hours in a workday, it's important to understand how to make the most of each hour and how to create systems that work for you.

  • Prioritizing: It's possible that a workday may have more tasks to complete than you have time for. An important time management skill is understanding your limits and how to prioritize tasks. Knowing how to look at a list of tasks and rank their importance based on company impact, approaching deadlines or complexity is something employers look for in their employees. Being able to set realistic work goals for your day and achieving them not only brings you personal satisfaction, but also shows your employer that you take a professional approach to your career.
  • Scheduling: Once you've ranked the tasks on your list, the next step in good time management is scheduling. Maintaining a schedule and implementing a system for that schedule, like a planner, email notifications or scheduler program can help build routines in your day, which leads to less wasted time. If you know you have a meeting at 9 a.m. and get a reminder at 8:30 a.m. to attend the meeting, you're less likely to be late and disrupt the flow of the meeting. Scheduling can also help with prioritizing equally important tasks. For example, if you need to work with a coworker on a specific project, but the only time you’re both available is next week, that means you can move the project lower down your list and prioritize the task you can complete on your own this week.
  • Workload Management: Finally, time management means discussing and setting reasonable expectations. Staying organized through to-do lists, scheduling systems and prioritizing can make large workloads more manageable. However, working at your top speed all day, every day is not sustainable. Break down larger projects into smaller milestones with realistic deadlines leading up to the larger, final deadline. Taking breaks throughout the week lets you recharge and refocus on new tasks. Have transparent conversations with your supervisor about their expectations for you and tasks or projects you need support with. The ability to delegate is not a sign you're unable to do the work; it's an important skill employers look for in their future leaders.

Tips to Improve Time Management

Though soft skills, or people skills, aren't as easily taught as hard, technical skills, there are ways to practice and improve your abilities. Here are some tools that may help support your time management.

  • Create a routine. Routines give us stability and eliminate the time wasted trying to answer the question, "What comes next?" By establishing and sticking to a routine, you're less likely to forget the tasks you need to complete every day.
  • Plan your day. As part of your daily routine, set aside time to plan the rest of your day. Once you've prioritized your to-do list, create a schedule and plan for how and when you'll start and complete each task.
  • Track your timeframes and adjust as needed. Occasionally time yourself on certain projects, but don't try to race the clock. Go through tasks at your normal, comfortable pace. Be honest about how long certain tasks take. If you only allow 15 minutes for a reporting task on your schedule, but the report normally takes you closer to 30 minutes to complete, you're not setting a realistic goal for yourself. And your frustration may make you even less productive on other tasks later in the day. Make adjustments as needed to your scheduling and discuss with your supervisor if you find you need additional time on all your tasks. They may be able to help streamline some processes or adjust your workload.
  • Use time management tools. Most email programs also have task tracking and calendar features. Many companies provide their employees with collaborative software that help them track big and small projects. Or find a pen and paper planner system that works for you. For some, a combination of all of these tools is the best method for staying on top of the things you need to do at work and at home. And remember, this is not a one size fits all solution. You may have to go through some trial and error to find the system that works for you.

How Ticket to Work Can Help

Social Security's Ticket to Work (Ticket) Program supports career development for people ages 18 through 64 who receive Social Security disability benefits (SSDI/SSI) and want to work. The Ticket Program is free and voluntary. It connects you with free employment services to help you decide if working is right for you, prepare for work, find a job or be successful while you are working.

Through the Ticket Program, you can connect with service providers to help you learn more about soft skills, how to develop and polish these skills and even think about the accommodations that may help you improve them.

Even once you start working, a Ticket Program service provider, like an Employment Network, may be able to help you navigate situations that arise in the workplace to help you find solutions or ask for accommodations to help you succeed. They can practice interview skills with you or connect you with a job coach once you're on the job.

Remember — no one is born with good time management skills, but with practice and the right tools, you can master this important skill.

Receiving Texts from the Ticket Program

If you're interested in receiving text messages from the Ticket Program, please text TICKET to 474747. Standard messaging rates may apply. We'll send updates from our blog, identify steps on the path to employment and more. We hope you'll find this new way to stay in touch helpful. You can opt out at any time.

If you're interested in receiving text messages from the Ticket Program, please text TICKET to 474747. Standard messaging rates may apply. We'll send updates from our blog, identify steps on the path to employment and more. We hope you'll find this new way to stay in touch helpful. You can opt out at any time.

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